Monday, March 5, 2018

A Visitor Weighs In

A regular visitor provides the comments below. There is additional perspective in the 100-plus comments at the post on the blog that broke the story, which strongly suggest that there are factions in the Holly Rosary parish with strong views in both directions;.
This is to share a few observations with respect to your posts in the past week regarding Fr. Luke Reese. The one thing of which I’m certain is that none of us know all of the details, so caution is indicated.
  1. Most ordinariate clergy are nearing retirement age, but Fr. Luke Reese is a notable exception. Your comments about clergy coming to the ordinariates needing to have independent means of support are accurate because the fledging ordinariates did not — and still do not — have the means to provide decent salaries. For most, the independent means of support was a vested pension from their prior denomination. Fr. Reese has, or at least had, a business producing and selling communion wafers that provided the necessary support. The pictures of Fr. Reese’s family at the time of his reception showed about eight children ranging in age from adolescent to newborn, so the youngest probably are still in elementary school. My guess is that he and his wife were in their thirties at the time of reception, which would put them into their early forties now. [News reports say he is 56. The Mary Ann Mueller piece at Virtue Online, which has the most thorough research, says he is 49 -- jb]
  2. I don’t know what formal training for ministry Fr. Reese might or might not have received in his prior denomination(s), but he apparently was judged to be in the category of needing significant remedial studies but less than a full program of Catholic seminary formation. There are several clues to this: first, the statements in the public record that he commuted to St. Meinrad School of Theology and Seminary from his residence in Indianapolis, which is over 2 ½ hours each way, according to Google Maps, indicating that he was never resident, and, second, the fact that the School of Theology granted him a Master of Arts rather than a Master of Divinity (this stood out to me when I saw the degree list in the alumni newsletter) indicating that he did not do the full program of coursework for the latter. His selection of courses at St. Meinrad undoubtedly was chosen to fill in the gaps in his previous formation, and probably was more extensive than the actual requirements for the degree that he received.
  3. The report that he supplied alcohol and got inebriated with a bunch of minors might well be a distortion of the gossip net rather than actual fact. [Commenters at the Fisher blog take this position, but if the arresting affadavit is correct, the complaints were made by parents of the minors -- jb] His ordinariate community met at a parish that also hosted the Tridentine mass for Catholics in or near the city of Indianapolis. For better or worse, many traditionalists who gravitate toward the Tridentine mass are of the mind that nothing can ever change, failing to distinguish between doctrine (which cannot change) and discipline (which can change). Such traditionalists undoubtedly would be shocked by the practice of distributing communion under both forms to the congregation, and even more shocked that he allowed minors to receive from the chalice (even though the official policy of the Catholic Church is that all who are admitted to communion may receive under both forms, regardless of age). It’s not unlikely that “He gave the chalice to minors!” might have mutated to “He was drinking to excess with minors!” in the traditionalist “gossip net.” If there had been real wrongdoing in this matter, a phone call from the Archbishop of Indianapolis to Bishop Lopes undoubtedly would have brought swift action as soon as the offense came to light. [The comments at the Fisher blog suggest the bishops had taken actions that aren't public -- jb.]
  4. Many arch-conservative circles, Christian or otherwise, put great value on a family’s public image and thus shield all kinds of misdeeds within the walls of the family home to maintain a fa├žade of respectability. As part of this, arch-conservative Christian circles of all stripes typically misconstrue the doctrinal position that wives should be submissive toward their husbands to mean that they must just take whatever abuse the husband might dish out — and it can go on for years. The ordinariate communities tend to be pretty conservative, so it’s certainly plausible that this dynamic was at work and that there was some history of unreported domestic abuse behind closed doors.
  5. There are also many who construe any sort of corporal punishment of children to constitute abuse. Here, I differentiate between a measured spanking of a child by an adult who is in control (okay) and a beating by an adult who is in a rage (not okay) — but others don’t. [We don't have information on what happened within the family, but it does appear from the published account that Reese could lose control and become violent -- jb.]
  6. But Catholic priests are human. The poor guy “lost it” when he caught his wife and another man engaging in sexual acts in the back seat of the other man’s automobile — but who among us would be a model of Christian charity and forgiveness on the spur of the moment in a similar situation? If you were to catch your wife in a similar scenario, do you really think that your reaction would have been a whole lot prettier than his? (Note: I’m distinguishing here between the reaction in the rage of the moment and the considered response after one has had a day or two — or perhaps several days or even weeks in a matter of this magnitude — to cool down and consider one’s lawful options.) [I would take the triggering episode as a symptom of more pervasive dysfunction -- this couldn't have been sudden -- jb.]
  7. If the alleged acts really are as violent as the charges that you quoted make them sound, why on earth was Fr. Reese set free after posting less than $2,500 in bond money? Indiana is a very conservative state that tends to be quite strict, especially when it comes to violent crime. Something here simply does not fit! [Reese is a priest with no prior record, so the judge might have been lenient -- jb.]
  8. It’s likely that some of the criminal charges against Fr. Reese will be dismissed for lack of evidence and/or witnesses and that it will be exceedingly difficult for prosecutors to win a conviction on the A&B rap(s) for what transpired when he caught his wife and another guy “in the act” due to the very clear provocation of the situation in which he caught them. My guess is that there will be some sort of resolution of the case involving either a plea deal with drastically reduced charges or an indefinite continuation without a finding. [I would agree that charges may be negotiated down, and Reese's counsel will probably argue that he is a priest with no prior record -- jb.]
  9. There’s also a human tendency to reinterpret prior events after a “falling out” that could be at play here. If there’s violence in the home, the time to report it is when it occurs — not several years later. [But your point 4 above could explain this, as well as a human tendency to put up with abuse, often mentioned in media discussions -- jb.]
I lived with a lot of abuse until my teens, when I simply got big enough to make my dad worry that I might fight back. This story gave me nightmares, frankly. I would say that a theory of Reese as someone who could lose control and become violent fits the reported circumstances, as well as an unwillingness by the family to report the abuse. My dad was normally careful not to leave marks where they'd be seen, but I definitely did get bruises, cuts, and welts. This would imply that my dad was fully aware that what he was doing was wrong as a matter of natural law if nothing else, but in remaining silent, my mom and other relatives were complicit.

As I reflect on my family circumstances, though, I'm more and more convinced that the physical abuse was just one part -- and maybe just a symptom -- of a more general dysfunction. Basically my dad was living a double life, and as I look back, there were far more issues than just abuse. I can't avoid wondering if this may be the case with the Reese family.

But I think the best overall perspective is from a comment at the Fisher blog from a woman married to a former TEC priest, both now lay Catholics:

This is not to ignore all the various horrible details of this particular case. It is horrible. I do wonder how exactly candidates for ordination in the Ordinariate are vetted. I also can’t help wondering just how much time the vetters spend talking to wives, and how seriously they take what the wife might say — if the wife is honest in her responses. I can see how, for various reasons, she might not be.

When I think about the level of formation that permanent deacons **and their wives** go through prior to ordination, this all seems crazy. Again, though, I have some personal experience with married clergy in both the Anglican Use and Byzantine Rite traditions, and I don’t think the couple in this story are exemplary of married Catholic clergy generally. I just wonder how they got through the process.

The problem is that Reese is not an exception in the OCSP as far as apparently cursory vetting is concerned.